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CHAPTER V
BILLS OF LADING

THE document under which cargo is carried on board
vessels is a bill of lading, and may be defined as a receipt for
goods, signed by the master or other duly authorized person
on behalf of the shipowner, and constitutes a document of
title to the goods specified therein.

Whilst it is primarily a receipt, and not strictly speaking
a contract of carriage, it is nevertheless good, and some-
times the only evidence of the terms and conditions of
carriage.

There has been some divergence of opinion as to whether
a bill of lading is in fact a receipt or a contract, but in the
case of Sewell v. Burdick (1884), I0 App. Cas. 74, Lord
Brainwell stated—

There is I think another inaccuracy in the statute (Bill of Lading
Act, 1855} which is indeed oniversa!. It speaks of the contract
contained in the bill of lading. To my mind there is no contract in
it. It is a receipt for goods stating the terms on which they are to
be received and carried by the ship, and, therefore, excellent evidence
of those terms, but it is not a contract. That has been made before
the bill of lading has been given.

The words of his Lordship put the question in its proper
perspective and eliminate all doubt.

The indispensable features of every contract are of course
offer and acceptance. When a shipowner advertises his
vessel for the carriage of caigo, and the shipper signifies
his offer by requesting the owner to reserve space in the
vessel, he thereby makes an offer. It is only when the ship-
owner has accepted the cargo on board that the contract
of affreightment is concluded.

It wodd be as well to explain that if the contract of
carriage consisted merely of an unqualified offer and
acoepfaxxse—withotrt any special terms and conditions of
contract—t&e shipowner would constitute himself a
"common carrier/* and would consequently render himself

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